PK 090: Acclaimed Illustrator Cale Atkinson Reveals How to Become a Freelance Artist

Want to know how to become a freelance artist? Check out this week’s podcast interview with acclaimed children’s book illustrator, Cale Atkinson.

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“You can be the best artist in the world, but if nobody knows you out there, you’re not going to get any work.

~ Cale Atkinson

Want to know how to become a freelance artist?

Cale Atkinson is an illustrator and author based in Kelowna, Canada. These days, he’s mainly working on children’s books, including Explorers of the Wild published by Disney Hyperion.

But he didn’t set out to become an artist. Cale didn’t go to art school, and he didn’t even know how to draw and paint when he started out.

So how on Earth did he manage to carve out a successful freelance creative career?

Read on to find out why determination can go a long, long way…

Cale Atkinson on how to Become a Freelance Artist

Looking back, Cale Atkinson actually took the first steps towards learning how to be a freelance artist at the tender age of 10.

He loved drawing and telling stories, so he’d send his comic strips to all the big publications, such as The New Yorker, the New York Times, and the National Enquirer.

He didn’t get his work accepted by any of them, but this didn’t stop him from trying. He says: “I was always super-stoked to get a rejection letter, because it meant I was actually getting my work out there and people were seeing it.”

But Cale didn’t exactly follow a traditional path to become an artist. He just drew because he loved it, and didn’t really take it any more seriously than that.

And, when his childhood career as a comic strip artist didn’t take off, Cale got heavily into film and put together a well-received final project in his year of graduation.

Having decided to go to film school, he applied to a few and got accepted. But it was an interview at one of these colleges that made Cale change direction again.

He says: “The professors interviewing me seemed kinda jaded. Something clicked inside, and I knew this wasn’t really for me.”

So, having decided not to go to film school, Cale started doing odd freelance gigs as a videographer for weddings and corporate events. But he wasn’t really enjoying this, either, and it was at this point that he decided to follow his creative dream and learn how to become a freelance artist and animator.

Watch the awesome Cats Can Wear Suits, an animated short by Cale Atkinson here:

Cats Can Wear Suits from cale atkinson on Vimeo.

In the early days, Cale scoured freelance job boards on a daily basis, sending his work to anyone he thought might be interested. And, having realised he wasn’t the world’s greatest artist, he worked hard to improve and develop his skills.

Eventually, all the hard work paid off. Cale started to pick up some illustration work, and has produced illustrations for clients such as Disney and Marvel.

He’s a huge admirer of the style seen in classic animation and illustration and always aims to give his digital art a traditional hand-made feel.

You can download a special set of Photoshop brushes created by Cale here.

Listen to this week’s show and learn:

  • Why rejection letters aren’t always a bad thing
  • How to tailor your portfolio to the clients you want
  • How to overcome fear and get your work out there

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Thanks for listening to our show! We’ll be back next Wednesday morning 8AM EST.

Cheers,

Mitch

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